November 25, 2008

Those with sickle cell underserved

Youth populations with sickle cell disease are receiving inadequate healthcare, and may fail to benefit from scientific advances, U.S. researchers said.

The study, published in Pediatric Blood & Cancer, finds that the patients, mostly African-Americans, often lack insurance or access to specialized sickle cell centers for treatment.

Jean Raphael, of the Baylor College of Medicine, said significant percentages of children with sickle cell disease fail to see a specialist even once per year and that only 10 percent of cases are followed by hematologists. Additionally, the number of hematologists and other healthcare providers dedicated to care of these patients may be insufficient to provide adequate care.

This topic has significant relevance to healthcare quality and delivery to children with chronic conditions, Raphael said in a statement. Rising healthcare costs in the United States due to chronic diseases demand more from the healthcare system for better long-term survival.

Sickle cell disease, a blood disease characterized by abnormally shaped red blood cells, affects close to 100,000 persons in the United States alone. The disease is a chronic medical condition, which causes frequent episodes of pain and may lead to serious infections as well as stroke.